The new fire station on Big Bay Point Road in Innisfil has been a long time coming.
A fire station at the northern end of the municipality was first proposed more than two decades ago. Plans were finally approved and the finances put in place back in 2016.
So, the official opening of the completed and fully operational fire hall on Saturday was a time for celebration and congratulations.
Innisfil Station No. 5 was packed with residents and dignitaries for the grand opening and ribbon-cutting on Feb. 8. Among those attending were Barrie Innisfil MP John Brassard, MPP Andrea Khanjin, members of Innisfil town council, representatives from neighbouring fire services, and the provincial fire marshal, Jon Pegg, who's a former Innisfil fire chief.
There were also many residents from the surrounding area, eager to see more of the station that will be providing them with improved fire protection.
“It’s just amazing to see the turnout from the community,” said Innisfil Mayor Lynn Dollin, noting that “so many people have made this building a reality,” including the previous council, the architect and engineers, Geranium Corporation and Jim deGasperis of Friday Harbour Resort, who provided the land, a temporary facility while the building was under construction, and support.
She thanked them all “for bringing the vision of this station forward,” contributing to the “safety and security” of the municipality.
“You can’t have a thriving community without residents who feel safe and secure,” said Dollin, noting the new fire station will provide fire protection to the residents of Big Bay Point, Friday Harbour Resort and nearby Sandycove Acres.
“A fire hall is one of the most important buildings in a municipality,” she said. “We now have more resources to keep our residents safe, something that is of vital concern to me as your mayor and to council.”
The new fire station “represents our desire and our commitment to protect our own communities, our homes,” she said.
Brassard told the crowd that he was a firefighter before he was elected to Parliament, and praised both the new building and the town.
“The safety and security of its citizens is paramount in whatever it does,” Brassard said.
The 12,000-square-foot building, with its striking architecture, will be staffed by four full-time professional firefighters around the clock, ensuring that the first truck can leave the station within minutes of a call, plus 18 volunteer firefighters.
It is the third new fire station built by the town in the past five years.
Pegg thanked Innisfil council for its vision and “buy-in.”
It was Pegg who, when he was chief of Innisfil Fire & Rescue, laid the groundwork for the new stations.
“It’s very rare to see three stations built in a municipality in five years. It’s very rare to see three stations built in a municipality in 20 years,” Pegg said. “Thank you for contributing to fire safety.”
Fire Chief Tom Raeburn noted that the new station will have a “tremendous” impact on fire service, reducing response times by more than six minutes.
“It’s a big deal for residents and the community,” Raeburn said.
He pointed out that Innisfil council approved construction of the station, located at 25 Sideroad and Big Bay Point Road, in 2016, but it took time to put in the servicing and overcome a number of issues before construction could get underway.
“It takes time,” Raeburn acknowledged. “It did seem like forever,” but the day has finally come.
“I’m just proud to be part of this team,” Raeburn said, from the newest recruit, to Capt. Wayne Ayres, a volunteer firefighter for 54 years. “We are celebrating the station today and your efforts. You do amazing things every day that no one knows.”
Al Gilchrist was among the many residents who came out for the ribbon cutting and a tour of the new station.
“I live at the end of Lockhart Road,” Gilchrist said, noting that his street has no fire hydrants, and that until now, the nearest fire station was in Alcona or Stroud, something that impacted his insurance rates.
Now he can tell his insurer that fire protection is “just three minutes away!”